A little je ne sais quoi by Beckford’s librarian

Posted on 6th April 2022 by simonbeattie

Printed in Meaux, east of Paris (and presumably in limited numbers), this is a copy of the first edition of a rare little book of epigrams by Ange-Denis Maquin (1756–1823), a professor of rhetoric and belles-lettres who subsequently fled across the Channel during the Terror.  Settling at Hastings, ‘he began learning English and supported himself by sketching local landscapes.  In 1793, following an introduction to Edmund Lodge, he was appointed heraldic draughtsman to the College of Arms, and on 22 May 1794 he was elected honorary fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.  He designed Nelson’s funeral car and a new throne for the old House of Lords’ (Oxford DNB).  After the fall of Napoleon, Maquin returned to France, where he met William Beckford, whom for many years he served as librarian and private secretary.  Beckford’s letters reveal the Abbé to be a Friar Tuck-like character, ‘of humours etc. fomented and cultivated by pies, truffles, Pregnac, Bordeaux etc.  Never have I seen such eating and drinking.  He swallows everything, he tastes everything, he mixes everything up inside himself: milk, then a collation, then lonchon, then dinner, then supper accompanied by a vast deal of rum’ (18 Nov. 1817).

For more details on the book, and others that I shall be exhibiting at the New York book fair later this month, please sign up for my e-lists at the bottom of this page.

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